CRITIQUING: There’s a big difference in being honest and being brutal—constructive and destructive
When I got serious about my writing, and wrote my first novel, I made a cazillion mistakes. I was such a newbie.
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What saved me was entering a contest and in the course of that contest, I came into contact with real creative writers. That was my real prize—feedback and serious critiques, that and learning terms. What the hell did they mean when writers and judges would say ‘good bones’ and ‘need to work on POV’? Keep in mind, I hadn't taken any writing courses in at least ten years and fiction-writing styles had changed considerably in that time. I didn't win the contest (which was a romance writing contest where you also received critiques from other writers and contestants) although I finished in the top 20% out of about 1200 entries. Not bad, considering the mistakes I made.
I like to receive honest critiques. If something isn't working, I’d like to know that. I take my work seriously. I don’t hand my work to just anyone. I tend to pick those who know what they’re doing, whose opinion I value, and who write the same genre or similar genre. I like suggestions, questions, and I also love it when someone reads something that they really like or makes them laugh and they mention it.
The contest taught me the need for a tough skin, which was reinforced by the first serious critique of my manuscript. The poor thing about bled to death with all the red lining. CPR was difficult but it survived and so did I.
But you know what?
She was right.
She wasn't harsh, but she was to the point and honest. She’s a published author and one for whom I have a great deal of respect.
I've always said if you want someone to tell you your writing is wonderful, hand it to your family or your mother. I call that blowing sunshine and butterflies.
You want honesty then give it to a fellow writer you respect. And then listen to what they say. Give yourself think about it a bit—once you get over the shock.
And the sting to your ego.
I may have been writing all my life and won contests but that doesn't make me a great writer. Critiques will do that and the willingness to listen and learn. A readiness to sharpen your craft and be willing to put your manuscript on a strict diet to trim away the excess fat so you can see those great bones in your writing.
- What has been your writing experience?